5 Tips to Overcome Injuries at the Gym (and in Life!)

Recently I have had the pleasure of experiencing vocal nodules. (Damn, it sucks!)

What are vocal nodules? They are callous-like growths that develop in the mid-point of the vocal folds – where your cords touch every time you speak – due to overuse, misuse, and cord trauma.

You know that feeling you experience when you have strep throat and swallow? I was feeling a sore sensation quite similar (and at times still do if I am not being frugal with my voice) when I would talk. I had to go on vocal rest outside of my work at MFF for two weeks, only to then need another week of total vocal rest, needing to take off from work.

In other words, after two weeks of avoiding any social engagement – talking on the phone, going out with pals, laughing, etc. – I got to top it off with a week away from work, which became the only place where I could socially engage.

It was three weeks of feeling like a robot, typing what I wanted to say into my phone and flashing the screen to folks around me. I was avoiding friends, family, coworkers, people in the streets, in an effort to avoid the growing frustration of not being able to communicate smoothly.

I developed a psychological association between pain and speaking. It took a toll on me eventually and, inevitably, my thoughts got a bit dark.

  • Will I ever be able to speak without pain again?
  • Will this ever heal?
  • I am the only one who is dealing with this?
  • Can I stay in this industry of work?
  • Will my coaching ever be the same?

Sure, these thoughts may seem dramatic, but when you are unable to effectively do a basic part of everyday life – even for three weeks – it gets in your head.

The thing is, sh*t happens to everyone at some time, and this can affect our workout performance. Here are five tips I learned in my three-week silence that can help you overcome obstacles or injuries in and out of the gym.

1. Avoid the “I Am the Only One” Syndrome

The thing is, injuries are bound to happen. WOMP! And counter-intuitively, you do not have to be regularly engaging in activities like weight training, biking, or dancing to get hurt.

Take bone fractures for example. Approximately 6.3 million fractures occur each year in the U.S. and 40% of these occur at home.

Consider a sprained ankle. Every day, 25,000 people sprain their ankle in the U.S. And more than 1 million people visit emergency rooms each year because of ankle injuries.

We are human, and so at some point during various times of our journey here on this earth, we may experience a mishap.

All of this said, it still sucks. Feel your feelings, but don’t drown in them — you are not alone!

2. Work With What You Have

Injured your wrist? Seek ways to train your lower extremity. Injured your knee? Tackle some upper body hypertrophy! Be creative and find innovative ways to train around your issue.

A couple of years ago, a pal of mine named Domenick Minnici, a nationally ranked powerlifter, tore his quad tendon and vastus medialis during a 735-pound squat in a meet.

We trained at the same gym during this time, and I vividly remember seeing him soon after his injury by the seated cable row machine.

I thought, “Wait, is that really him?”

As I approached him, I saw his crutches on the floor and an immobilizer brace on his left leg, from his hip all of the way down to his ankle.

I was in awe and couldn’t help but blurt, “Holy shit, you’re still training?” He replied, “Well, I have to work with what I got right now.” He chose to not play victim.

That month, I continued to see him lug his way around World’s Gym on his crutches doing exactly what he said, working with what he had.

Even if you are not a competitive powerlifter who is squatting hundreds of pounds, you can probably relate to this at one time or another, because he, too, is a human who had to accommodate his behavior and mindset because of an injury. Domenick chose not to throw in the towel and fuel the non-helpful, “all or nothing” mentality.

We recently visited about this and while we chatted he mentioned, “Everyday above ground is a good day. No need to dwell on the things you cannot control. You have to roll with it and give it all you got with what you have. Champions don’t quit. They adjust to whatever situation is thrown at them.”

He has since healed and competed successfully.

3. Rest When You Should

For all of you work addicts out there, this may be the hardest one. Resting may feel like you are moving backwards. Thoughts such as, “All of my hard work has gone to waste!” or “Now I have to start all over again because I lost everything!” may eat at your psyche.

Even though you may experience temporary strength loss and atrophy in said area, you need to keep the big picture in mind.

Take ownership and responsibility in resting that area to allow yourself to heal as efficiently as possible. This way, you can get back into full training mode sooner.

4. Trust Your Body – It Knows What To Do

Seriously, take this into account. For example, soon after a fracture occurs, the body forms a protective blood clot and callus around the fracture to protect it. New “threads” of bone cells start to grow on both sides of the fracture line. Bone cells are able to recognize other bone cells.

Holy shit, right?

Or let’s take a muscle tear for example: when muscle fibers and small blood vessels tear and fill the area with blood, the muscle tissues involved work as a mechanism to “seal off” the injured area. This is to ensure that the destruction and subsequent repair phases only occur in the injured site.

Your body is so self-sufficient and intelligent that recovering cells and damaged tissues can indicate where exactly needs recovering. Trust it and be patient.

5. Use What You Learn To Your Advantage

Those of you who know me know that I am a loud coach, so keeping someone in full gear while they are training by speaking softly was completely foreign, challenging, and frustrating to me.

At first, I was a total grump. I allowed myself to feel my feelings, and then I caught myself drowning in them. In an effort to not be a walking black cloud around the Ninjas and my colleagues, I had to shift my thinking.

I could not (and still cannot) speak loudly. So how else could I engage the Ninjas and keep them up while coaching?

  1. I started using my hands on the floor way more. Now, after I read aloud the list of upcoming movements we are to tackle and the timer goes off, I walk to each mat, one by one to either (a.) readjust an improper pattern via my hands or (b.) signal the “good job” with a thumbs up and clapping instead of talking loudly.
  2. I got viciously efficient with my words by thinking to myself, “What are the MOST important takeaway knowledge nuggets I can deliver without fluff?” I stopped counting breath counts in the cool down and guided the Ninjas to count in their heads, hopefully increasing their mental presence in the room.
  3. I prioritize music with higher beats per minute that will inspire Ninjas to keep pushing. Instead of just picking any fast paced song I can find on Spotify, I prepare music that talks in some way about how awesome the world is, how we have to persevere, how we CAN push through doubts, etc.

Develop Your Superpowers

At first glance, any injury is a total bummer. Feeling less than completely functional could keep you from wanting to play the game.

But the truth is, once you dig past the adversities, you can find a treasure chest of opportunities for self-reflection.

  • Dig deeply into your behavior
  • Learn to take ownership in self-care
  • Discover how to allow space for your body to function in its miraculous ways
  • Recognize that you are not alone


Want access to a fitness community to help you work through whatever obstacles might be in your way? Sign up for a Health & Hotness Strategy Session at MFF.


Ayse Billi, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and former competitive USAPL Powerlifter, is a Ninja Trainer at Mark Fisher Fitness with a B.S. in Fitness Development. Her passion is creating a brave space for Ninjas to learn about their bodies and increasing their connections to them. Ayse’s teaching style is a cocktail of dry comedy, science, empathy, and ridiculousness, delivering an education-based workout while having fun. When not teaching, you can catch her dancing at a studio #HipHopWillNeverDie, nerding out about music, or just nerding out in general.


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